In our last few posts we have been looking at how we can stay motivated; how setting goals was important for Fiona Tall, our West Area Manager, to recover her health and well-being; alongside easy ways to feel healthier and more active. This week, we asked the Moray Peer Service how they support people to achieve their fit150. Here’s what Louise Parkinson (Recovery Practitioner Peer) said:
Do you believe that physical exercise and activity is important?
Yes, absolutely! I am like the least sporty person in the world and even I see the benefits of it. For me it is not about running miles and miles, or climbing mountains, but if I’m not active, my mental health plummets.
Aside from the physiological benefits, I think physical exercise and activity can also help to clear one’s mind. I’ve struggled with severe anxiety and when the adrenaline builds up in your body, it can be a really horrible physical sensation. But physical exercise and activity can help to ease this sensation.
Being active is a tool that I use both day-to-day to maintain my well-being, but also as a first-aid step if I’m experiencing a panic attack, or I am stressed.
Some people find that when they are exercising it can actually trigger their anxiety. Would you agree with this?
That was actually something that happened for me. I didn’t access exercise for a long time because it mimics the sensations of hyperventilating and can feel like a trigger. That in addition to other anxieties around weight and feeling self-conscious can make it really difficult to access anything in terms of gyms, pools, etc.
Do you think that people you support or have supported in the past feel the same about this?
I think so. The Moray Peer Service works with a lot of people whose exercise and activity I.ROC results are not where they would like them to be. I think it can be one of those things that is really tied in to how you feel about yourself.
If you are feeling a bit low, you potentially don’t want to spend time on yourself, so why would you invest in exercise? A lot of people we support have let this slip but many want to get back to it.
I also think that active, outdoor lifestyles are quite common in rural communities like ours. Being active can be an important factor when it comes to feeling part of your community. So, it is not only the physical aspect of exercising and being active, but also a social one.
However, exercise and activity has become one of the areas where we see the biggest difference in people’s I.ROC outcomes.
What did you do to support someone to achieve their fit150?
At the Moray Peer Service, we have done a few different things actually. A lot of people we support choose to do walking meetings instead of sitting down meetings; especially if one of the things they want to achieve is to walk more.
I have even done a walking I.ROC before; so we would have a conversation around one of the indicators and then stop to make some notes of what the person had said. The individual found it really helpful as they struggled to fill in an I.ROC sitting down.
I have also supported people to access the local swimming pool. We would start off by walking into the building and meet at the cafe before getting closer to the pool. Although the person was eventually comfortable enough to be sitting close to the pool it felt they were stuck to take the final step.
We spoke about what support they felt they needed and they explained that they struggled to access a sports shop to buy swim wear. As an alternative, we went to Tesco where no one would know what the person was looking for. The person left the shop with swim wear they liked and the following week they were participating in an aqua aerobics class. They’ve been going to a class once a week since.
What did people you support or have supported do to achieve their fit150?
I think a common theme is to take one step at a time. Pretty much everyone we have supported to increase their physical activity and achieve their fit150, did not start with 150 minutes of exercise a week. So, we might start during support sessions and eventually people would replicate this with their families and friends or when taking the dog for a walk.
I think it is about setting realistic goals and breaking it down into manageable chunks. We also often say that 150 minutes of exercise does not need to be done in one go; most often it might be something like 30 minutes 5 days a week. I think people can relate to this easier and it feels more achievable.
People also often don’t realise the amount of activity they are already engaging in. So, when we start to talk about fit150 they suddenly realise they are much more active then they initially thought they were.
I have worked with people who were beating themselves up because they felt they needed to walk more, but in conversation, they realised they were actually walking more than an hour every day already. So, sometimes it is not about the actual activity levels, but about working with someone on how they see themselves.
What difference has it made to them and their overall well-being?
The other two indicators that have changed the most for supported people accessing the Moray Peer Service over the last year were ‘Mental health’ and ‘Valuing myself’. I think the increase in exercise and activity will have increased people’s value and mental health.
There’s research that suggests that mental health can improve with physical activity. Taking the time to do something for them, to go to the gym or go for a walk can positively impact on a person’s perception of themselves. If a person values themselves more they are also more likely to be able to connect with their community. So, it really has a knock on effect on every aspect of well-being.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think it has been really interesting to be working with people towards achieving their fit150. Supporting people to access the swimming pool actually helped me to access the swimming pool again.
By looking at ways how I could support someone else, I was able to take these steps myself and I now regularly go for a swim. I think we sometimes underestimate how much supporting someone else to do something can improve our own fitness and our own fit150.
Thank you, Louise for sharing this with us on our fit150 blog. If you would like a tool to set goals and achieve your fit150, you can download our SMART Goal September Worksheet To share your fit150 story with us, you can use #fit150 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.